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Gavin West

“Is it true that the amoeba is the lowest form of life?” asks asound clip from Tulane evolutionary biology professor BruceFleury’s computer. “No,” it continues. “The lawyer is the lowestform of life.”

This sound clip from “Dr. Science” begins Fleury’s Tuesdaylecture on genetic drift. Many students have come to dread lectureclasses, but it is difficult to sleep through the dramatic soundeffects and cartoons of Fleury’s lectures.

In contrast to his dramatic teaching style, Fleury began hisTulane career in the library, but over time grew bored with librarywork and sought to become a professor.

“After spending so long helping students with difficultassignments, I decided to become one of the guys giving theassignments,” Fleury said.

In his earlier academic career, he performed extensive researchon wading birds and their relation to Louisiana wetlands. Fleury’smost recent career as a professor of practice has led him far fromLouisiana wetlands and into the universe of “The GreenLantern.”

The filming crew for the summer blockbuster initially approachedTulane University to figure out what Hector Hammond, the filmsnerdy antagonist, would have read as a child. They quickly foundFleury. Fleury grew up on comic books and knew exactly what wouldbe in the young Hector’s room.

His role expanded to the film’s consulting xenobiologist. Fleuryevaluated the biological accuracy of Abin Sur’s alien body, helpedwith the format of the autopsy lab and even wrote dialogue for ascene. Fleury’s involvement expanded still further, as he became aconsultant to actor Peter Sarsgaard on how to play a biologyprofessor. In fact, the brief lecture that Sarsgaard’s charactergives on extremophiles comes directly from one of Fleury’s ownlectures.

Working on “The Green Lantern” helped Fleury to reconnect withhis comic-book fan roots.

“The film made me remember why I like comics in the firstplace,” Fleury said. “My computer was downloading Uncanny X-Men1-600 when I left home this morning.”

Fleury’s film career has calmed down considerably now that hiswork on “The Green Lantern” is finished, but he still has teaching.Fleury uses everything he can to turn his classes into engagingexperiences.

“He wears shirts to match his lessons,” said Tori Novak, afreshman in Fleury’s Diversity of Life class. “When we talked aboutevolution, he wore a chimp Che Guevara shirt that said ‘Viva laEvolution.'”

Fleury punctuates his biology facts with sound effects from”Looney Toons,” “The Simpsons” and “Wayne’s World,” among others.He plays classic rock songs related to the day’s lesson beforeclass. In one lecture, he referenced “Doctor Who” and described aparticular type of mating difficulty as the Great Dane-ChihuahuaEffect.

While Fleury illustrates his points in entertaining ways,students said he always has the substance to support his style. Nobiology class would be complete without discussing Darwin’sfinches, but Fleury’s class isn’t complete until he’s examined howthe specific traits of the finches changed in response to a droughtand then returned to normal afterwards. This sophisticated piece ofbiology came shortly after a “Simpsons” clip and a “Dilbert” comicstrip.

It’s only natural, considering Fleury’s Hollywood experience,that sitting in his class is like watching a movie.